Maura McSweeney has Won the 2016 Oscar A. Romero Scholarship

Maura McSweeney, MCAS ’17, was awarded the 2016 Archbishop Oscar A. Romero Scholarship on Saturday. McSweeney, a philosophy major and an international studies minor, has served as the vice president and president of Other Americas and has participated in the Organization of Latin American Affairs, Camino Ignatius and Ignatian Family Teach-In, while working in the Dean of Students Office and the philosophy department.

One of three finalists, McSweeney won a scholarship of $25,000. All three finalists earned a scholarship of up to $3,000, as well as a $1,000 gift certificate to the Boston College Bookstore. The other finalists were Jenny Penafiel, CSOM ’17, and Peter Laboy, MCAS ’17.

The scholarship recognizes a Hispanic or Latino BC junior whose life demonstrates an understanding of and commitment to the values and ideals inherent in the life of Archbishop Romero. He or she must show involvement in and service to the Hispanic and Latino community at BC, as well as in the wider community.

Jeans Santana, the scholarship recipient in 2009 and BC ’10, led this year’s ceremony. Santana is currently a medical student at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and has two children.

In his opening remarks, Santana highlighted the responsibilities of those representing the values of Romero. He said that each person has a commitment to social justice and serving those in need.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” Santana said. “We must pay it forward which serves as the fuel to level the playing field. We must serve the poor, putting an emphasis on the serving.”

The event started with a buffet of traditional Argentinian food like plantains, chorizo sandwiches, and dulce de leche pastries, and ended with hours of dancing. In addition, the Tango Society of Boston, a traditional Argentinian dance group, performed three separate times.

Rev. Don MacMillan, S.J., spoke of Romero’s work in El Salvador. Romero, he said, gave the people of El Salvador spirit and hope. He led the opening prayer for the ceremony.

McSweeney had traveled to El Salvador for a Romero anniversary celebration. It was here where she began to realize the sacrifices people must make in order to promote social justice.

“I often find myself between two realities, that of Nicaragua and Boston College,” McSweeney said. “I could forget about the injustices in Nicaragua, but the example that Romero gives makes forgetting an unacceptable choice.”

Eva Maynard, BC ’97, was recognized as the recipient of the Rev. John A. Dinneen, S.J., Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award. Juan Concepcion, BC ’96 and Law ’03, presented Maynard with the award. He referenced how the world today should focus on social justice, and building bridges instead of walls.

Maynard serves as the assistant director of the Alumni Affinity Program at the Alumni Association. She, along with alumni, conceived Reconnect, the largest gathering of AHANA alumni at BC, in 2009. In addition, she revived groups focused on the arts, Middle Eastern studies, and law enforcement, and also coordinated reunions for organizations such as The Heightsmen, BC Bop, and My Mother’s Fleabag. Maynard explained that her determination stems from her selfless family.

“I urge you to not shrink in your pursuit of what you want out of life,” Maynard said. “Sometimes it may cost you and in the namesake of this award, for some people it cost them their lives to say that I am somebody, I matter, I was intended and so are you. It’s important to pursue everything we want out of life wholeheartedly.”

University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., announced the winner of the scholarship.

“I hope tonight renews us and helps us call on memories, adds to our sense of idealism and leads to a deepening of hope,” he said.

McSweeney explained that as a freshman, she felt a culture clash when arriving at BC. She reminded herself of the injustices she saw at home and searched for ways to correct these while in Chestnut Hill.

“As students of Boston College, we have a platform to speak out on issues of injustice and, therefore, a responsibility to use that platform,” McSweeney said. “My hope, then, is to encourage more students to make use of it to work for justice.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor